In this collection of columns that were originally published in the French newspaper Libération over the span of several years, Preciado not only chronicles his transformation from Beatriz to Paul, but also offers commentary on recent political, social, and cultural issues, for example the rise of neo-fascism, some of the intricacies of the Catalan independence movement, or the criminalization of migrants.
This is a thought-provoking book that has its strongest moments when the author is writing about his own life experiences and then puts them into a broader context. When he details spending a big part of his life as a lesbian woman before coming out as a trans man and then giving insight into the struggles of transitioning, he explains issues that I had never thought about. For instance, going through immigration at an airport and having to assure an officer that he is indeed the woman in his passport even though he does not look or sound like one now, and then trying to sound like one to convince him, and therefore having to deny what he has fought for so hard. Or the emotional impact of being issued a new birth certificate and having to destroy his old one in order to get it. These bureaucratic nightmares then lead to a discussion on the tight grip the state and politics overall keep on its citizens’ gender, and how invested they are in keeping them in one of two boxes. Preciado’s theories on gender politics in general are worth reading and reflecting on because it is always clear where he is coming from and his arguments are concise and certainly provide ample food for thought, even if I don’t agree on everything.
What I did not like as much is the disjointedness of the book. The columns are presented in chronological order instead of being thematically arranged, which is understandable on one hand, but leads to some distracting interruptions and repetitions otherwise. The individual columns are rather short, so one is often over just at the moment when a topic gets really interesting, but in the next text, a different topic is picked up. And then, five columns later, the first topic is brought back, which I don’t find ideal. Also, Preciado often writes about very specific, and sometimes minor, events in European politics that became the subject of his texts at the time they were happening, and those are the parts that were not all that engaging.
Overall, the quality of the individual texts is rather uneven; some are exceptional, some brilliant, but there are those that remain superficial because of the enforced brevity, or feel redundant in general. Nonetheless, it is an educational read that is especially compelling when discussing gender and sexual politics, and when giving glimpses into the author’s first-hand experiences of their numerous traps.